07:24 GMT22 October 2020
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    India's top women's rights watchdog has excoriated the chief secretary of the state of Maharashtra in western India, where exploitative contractors demand that female migrant workers have their wombs removed.

    New Delhi (Sputnik): India's National Commission for Women (NCW) has issued a strongly-worded notice to the chief secretary of Maharashtra in western India, highlighting the widespread mistreatment of women employed as seasonal sugar cane harvesters in the Beed district of the state. NCW contends that the migrant workers are treated like slaves, and are being forced to undergo hysterectomies so that their harvesting efforts aren't affected by pregnancy or menstruation.

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    Sugar cane harvesting season in Maharashtra lasts between October and March. Migrant labourers travel to the state's 'sugarcane belt' in hopes of finding work; Beed district is one of their destinations.

    Although migrant worker families are desperate to obtain gainful employment and can earn enough to cover expenses for the entire year, cane cutting contractors do not wish to hire women who menstruate, as pregnancies and periods are looked upon as hindrances. The women, some as young as 25, are compelled to undergo hysterectomies, the English-language daily The Hindu reports.

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    The workers are hired as husband-wife duos. They are provided with production targets, and face costly penalties if these goals are not achieved. To avoid the risk of losing their livelihoods, the women agree to have their uterus removed.

    An earlier Reuters report described the extent of the misery these field workers face. Because they are sterile, they are sexually abused by their men and sugar contractors alike, emboldened with the knowledge that this won't result in unwanted pregnancies. Because they live in tents on the sugar plantations, where they lack access to basic sanitation facilities, they are easy targets for rape and other forms of sexual abuse.


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    labor migrants, sugar, sexual abuse, exploitation, India, Maharashtra
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